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What great managers do: Prune

Being a great manager and English gardening have more in common than you might imagine.

This post lists the key insights from this article, from Claire Lew following a podcast where she interviewed David Cancel, co-founder and CEO of Drift.


If you want to improve your leadership skills, there no shortage of analogies that have been made about great managers. Here is a new one:

“I kind of think about most of this stuff as English gardening. If you want an English garden most of the work is actually the pruning and the taking care of. It’s not the planting, it’s not the plant selection. It’s this constant pruning. The day that you stop pruning is the day that the garden is full of weeds and overrun.”

David Cancel, CEO at Drift

Why this analogy is brilliant?

  • Pruning is a small, seemingly minor activity. You’re not making big, sweeping moves of planting new shrubs or replanting a whole tree.
  • When you prune, you clip away the dead leaves or diseased areas of a garden to encourage healthy growth. A great manager does this, as well. They focus on removing frustrating blockers for their team.
  • Pruning is also done periodically, only when the season is fitting. If you prune all the time and you can accidentally over prune a plant and deprive it of nutrients. Leadership is similar.
  • At the same time, fail to prune consistently over time, and, as David mentioned, your entire garden will be overrun.
1 min​ read

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